Quick Points of Positivity

I have to say that the last couple days have actually been a lot better than I expected. Some quick points of positivity:

  •  I’ve been doing my insurance training for the past two days, and it’s actually been a really good experience. I’ve met good people, and the company has a very solid way of approaching sales that makes it a whole lot different than insurance stereotypes would lead you to believe.
  • I uncovered a rather striking point in my high school career while going through old emails. It’s been really enlightening.
  • I’ve been doing my scheduled running and I’m definitely getting better.
  • I’ve got tons of comics to read.
  • I’ll be working with a friend (and reader of this blog) to put together a video game blog. It’s going to rock.

-Josh

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Paying for the Losses

Accountability is rough, particularly when you’re not doing the right thing. At the end of week one of my little project I hadn’t even broken even; I stood with 2 wins and 4 losses, a rather miserable record.

The week started with great intentions, a renewed vigor or some other nonsense, but then little things would happen that would take up time…a couple days I knew that I wouldn’t be able to complete ALL of my tasks for the day because of commitments, so I basically gave up on the day. I gave up for a few days.

I went running today, the first time I tried to do week three of the C25K running training program. This may be my fifth week of trying the program.) Each day this week I was supposed to exercise for roughly 30 minutes: 5 minutes of warm-up, followed by two sets of run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes. When I’d done weeks 1 and 2 the way they were supposed to, they were challenges, but feasible. I’ve been taking time off running lately though; I got sick for a bit a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been using the “body, mind, or spirit” clause of my rules to focus on learning to play chess well instead of exercising.

I wheezed. I coughed. I felt like my asthma had come back from the grave, and it was ready to put me in its old place. I was in no shape to perform Week Three’s challenge.

That’s my current week, and it’s pretty shameful. See, I’ve learned that the objective of this program is to learn how to prioritize, and I seem to only prioritize when it’s convenient. Some days I would work out, but instead of running I’d do strength training, avoiding the heat of running midday. End result: my lack of focus is keeping me from success. 

I’ve dropped myself back to Week Two of the C25K program to try and train myself back to speed. And I’ll have to get everything right each day for the rest of the week to pull out of the nosedive of failure I’m in, but even so, I know I need to expect more of myself. The occasional L because I went out and had a few drinks with friends or didn’t have enough inspiration to write is to be expected, but these are the results of sheer laziness. These results aren’t good enough.

-Josh

WE’RE NOT (credit)WORTHY!

The US isn’t creditworthy? Oh, I’m glad that Standard and Poor’s index let me know, because the raging amounts of debt and Congressional shitwittery didn’t tip me off.

Today the news is plastered with stories about how the S&P index has lowered the US Credit Score from AAA down to AA+, which, to anyone with an elementary school education, sees like being changed from a score of Super Mega Happy Smile Kitty Face Sunshine to Super Mega Happy Smile Hedgehog Face Rainbow (because everyone loves kittens and sunshine more than hedgehogs and rainbows.) Even so, this is a big deal, as the transition from kitty to hedgehog notifies investors and countries worldwide that our ability to repay our debts is not the shining symbol of perfection that it apparently has been during the past 10 years (you remember, those years where we squandered our national surplus and bailed out companies from financial ruin without stipulations as to how we’d get that money back, then watched those companies post huge bonuses and profits for themselves and their shareholders. Man, those were the days).

A kitten and a hedgehog are drinking from a bowl of milk.
Either way we’re still cute, right?

Funny, I remember that once upon a time, the Federal government got angry at mortgage companies for giving loans to people that they knew pretty well couldn’t pay those loans back. It was called sub-prime lending, and it kicked the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed crap out of our economy. As foreclosures began en masse across the country, we figured something out: giving credit to people who aren’t creditworthy doesn’t end well. In fact, some would say that the idea of not providing credit to those who aren’t worthy is implied in the definition of creditworthiness.(This is definitely not me saying people who have bad credit should never receive credit.) I am saying that when the entire market creates a habit of making what the average financial consumer could call a “poor idea,” there just might be a problem.

So, let’s extrapolate a bit and pretend that an entire government, perhaps the world’s premier national government, makes a slew of “poor financial ideas.” Let’s pretend that the government decides to increase spending by millions, billions of dollars every year without any serious increase of taxation or solid plan of how to make back the money it’s spending. Let’s pretend that the government sets a “debt ceiling” to give people the impression that one day they’ll cap their spending, instead simply resolving to raise that ceiling whenever they hit it. And, finally, let’s pretend that when it comes time to be proactive and start figuring how to pay back debts and handle spending, politicians spend weeks in the limelight of the media circus campaigning and stroking themselves off until zero-hour while the public sits and watches. Do you really need S&P to tell you that this country isn’t creditworthy? Perhaps, in fact, it would be a good idea for people to stop pouring as much money into our coffers until we learn how to work with each other and learn what to do with the cash. Then again, it’s not just the politicians with the problem.

I could sit here and lambaste politicians all day, but the truth of the matter is that it’s only partially the politicians’ fault. It might be 85% their fault or something like that, but that’s not the point. See, even when politicians are catering to the demands of lobbyists, they’re still elected by the constituency. We’re the ones taking the little power we have and throwing it into a ballot-box trash can each election. Voting doesn’t matter when you only do it once every four years.

Imagine that your manager walked into your job and decided who was going to work there, firing and hiring at will, then simply walked out and let shit happen for four years. Then, regardless of what ACTUALLY happened during that time, the manager came back and did new hiring and firing based simply on what they heard about on occasion between episodes of Jersey Shore16 and Pregnant, and The 700 Club. Your manager might pay attention when the bills aren’t being paid and the lights are just about to be turned off, but if there’s no immediate crisis, nobody is paying attention. How effective could that manager possibly be? And does this situation sound familiar?

It’s not the U.S. government that’s not creditworthy; it’s US. We, as a nation, ALL OF US, have allowed government to spend and spend with no solid revenue source. The solution is pretty basic, really: If you want government services, you have to pay for them with taxes. If you don’t want to pay taxes, you can’t have government services. The U.S. is one of the most under-taxed nations in the world, with some of the cheapest fuel prices as well. We asked the government to make money and resources appear out of thin air, and it did what we asked. And now we’re seeing our money turn back into air, but I still don’t get the sense anything will change just yet.

D.C.’s politicians were able to get their camera time and eventually create a last-minute deal we all knew would happen to avert our impending financial doom. And who the hell knows the difference between AA+ and AAA anyway? It’s all a matter of comparatives, regardless; so long as American Treasurys are the comparative best option out there, it doesn’t matter what our credit score is, since people will still buy. Journalists still have something to write about, politicians still have something to campaign about, and we still have news to feed on. Things will change regardless of whether or not we pay attention, but nothing will get any better until we get involved, until we know what happens on a regular basis and decide to do something about it. 

Here’s the thing about belt-tightening: you have to wear the belt to tighten it in the first place. In my mind, the Blues and the Reds are BOTH RIGHT; we need to raise taxes AND cut spending. We’re in the middle of a financial nightmare that is about to become an even more striking reality, and perhaps we’ve reached the point where we need to compromise and show the world (and ourselves) that we actually CAN make tough decisions under pressure, that we can change the American status quo and climb back on top of that Kitty Face Sunshine pillar of finance.

A kitty face from Sunshine Crafts.com.

Actually, that’s a kinda creepy pillar. Maybe I’ll stick around the hedgehogs for a while.

-Josh

Upper of the Day: Check out pictures of hedgehogs. If these don’t make you smile, check the bottom of your shoe, as you may not have a soul. (Get it?)

Playing To a Scoreboard (2-1)

Well, Monday and Tuesday I worked and made sure I got my letters written, my reading done, my writing all set up, and my exercise performed. Then yesterday came around, and well…yesterday didn’t work out so well. My record right now is 2-1, and I’m happy with it.

In case you missed my last blog post, I’ve come up with a way to try and keep myself motivated to get important things accomplished each day. I’ve decided to count each day like a sports game, counting it as a W or an L based on the whether or not I achieve all of the following tasks during the day:

  • Write a letter to someone important.
  • Exercise the body, mind, or soul.
  • Write for an hour.
  • Read for a half-hour.
  • Journal.
  • Drink ❤ drinks.
I’m adding one more to the list:
  • Don’t buy any new video games (other than the ones I’ve already pre-ordered.)
It’s a challenge, but it definitely feels worthwhile.

What I’ve learned already from this experiment: winning doesn’t make you a winner, and losing doesn’t make you a loser. Last night I ran some errands, tried to get some things working on this car that I bought (which happens to be falling apart even 1 day after I’ve finally gotten it mobile, but since I paid 200 dollars for it, I guess that’s to be expected), worked on some insurance stuff, hung out with a friend, played some games, and proceeded to go straight to bed after I returned home. Even though I knew that I still had writing, journaling, and the rest to do, I was so damned worn out from staying up until 3 and 4 AM the prior days to accomplish my tasks that I didn’t have much of a choice but to fall asleep. Still, I was productive and had a good time…I’m alright with that L.

In contrast, Tuesday was a W, but ended up feeling like a pretty crappy day. I got pretty wrapped up in myself, and spent a lot of the day looking for people to talk to, but to no avail. I went out later that night, meaning to hanging out with a friend at a local bar (and keeping under my drink limit, mind you!), but I just didn’t feel into the atmosphere. I met some new people, but they’d already formed a group of their own, and I was obviously an awkward wheel there. All in all, I didn’t really feel like I fit in much anywhere…by the time I went to bed that night, I’d sure accomplished all my tasks, but felt pretty miserable. And that’s a damned shame, considering that day I’d played almost two hours of Ultimate Frisbee AND done my C25K run back-to-back. I had a lot to be proud of, but I let other stuff get in the way.

Out in California, I had a motto: Play to win. I think about that now, and I realize something: the important part is not to actually win, but to play the game with every intention of winning every time. Sure, Monday and Tuesday I was able to chalk up Ws, but I cut so much sleep and rest out of my day that I set myself up for failure on Wednesday. If I plan to be successful, both inside this experiment and in life in general, simply winning can’t be enough.

Those W days I procrastinated hard, and I paid for it by having to stay up really late to accomplish my goals. The idea of this project is to learn how to integrate those tasks into my daily life, not tack them on at the end for some artificial scoreboard. My goal for the rest of the week is to not just win, but play to win. And even though I’ve gotten a late start today (slept almost 11 hours last night), I’m going to do some workouts and get my exercise done. Definitely chalking up a W today.

-Josh